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[314] to cross Pearl river from Canton, moving towards Morton, on the Jackson and Meridian railroad; a regiment was also sent across Pearl river to cover the front of the enemy, if they tried to cross Pearl river at Jackson. This regiment was also to destroy the pontoon bridge over Pearl river. General French, with two small brigades at Jackson, and General Loring at Canton, had been advised to cross Pearl river, owing to the large forces of the Federal army, and their rapid advance. As soon as it was ascertained that General Sherman was crossing Pearl river at Jackson, General Loring, who had marched towards Pearl river from Canton, crossed and united his division with General French's near Morton, on the Jackson and Meridian Railroad. Ferguson's Brigade covered Loring's command on the Clinton and Canton road. General Lee also crossed with two brigades of Jackson's Division (Adams' and Stark's) and with Ferguson's Brigade, which was sent to get in front of the enemy and cover the retreat of General Loring's two divisions. Jackson, with Adams' and Stark's Brigades, was ordered to operate on the flank and rear of the enemy on his march at Brandon and Pelahatchie stations. General Ross, who was operating on the Yazoo river, was ordered to abandon his operations there and march to join his division under General W. H. Jackson.

As soon as General Polk was fully advised of the large force under General Sherman, and of the column which was to move from the north, he decided that his force was too small to give battle. He had drawn a part of the Mobile garrison to Meridian as a re-enforcement, but considering Mobile as the most important place in his department, and fearing that Sherman would move towards Mobile instead of Meridian to meet Admiral Farragut and General Banks, he ordered General Lee on February 9 to move all his cavary from the rear and the north of Sherman's line of march to the south, to protect the Mobile and Ohio railroad, so that he could return the troops he got from Mobile, and could also be able to reenforce that point, if necessary, with additional troops. He could not understand why Sherman had Meridian as his objective point. General Polk at the same time ordered General Ferguson's Brigade from the front of General Sherman's advance to the south, in order also to protect the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. General Lee, on arriving at Newton Station, on the 11th of February, met General Ferguson. He at once saw that General Sherman was going to Meridian and not to Mobile, and caused General Ferguson to retrace his steps and again get in front of General Sherman.

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